Adequate Procedures - Written by on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 1:46 - 1 Comment

The Bribery Act: Coming soon & compliance won’t cost millions UPDATED

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The birth of the Bribery Act is late and it is not easy.

However, this week in the House of Commons Kenneth Clarke Minister of Justice has affirmed the government’s commitment to putting it in place.  In the run up to the expected ‘due date’ for the guidance there was nothing much less than a media war waged against it.

UPDATE: If you would like to see a recording of the exchange please click here for the footage from the House of Commons!

++++UPDATE: The FT reports today that Ken Clarke has said that he hopes that the new guidance will be published in weeks rather than months and poured scorn on the suggestion that normal corporate hospitality would be outlawed or that compliance would cost millions++++

International Pressure

There has never been any danger of the Bribery Act not entering into force.  Hinting at international pressure from the US (predictably) placed on the UK following the recent media storm over the new law Mr. Clarke confirmed:

“Along with the United States and others, we are one of the leading countries in pressing for a drive against corruption in the world, because corruption is bad for all business, including British business when it tries to export to other countries. Because of the debate that is taking place about the Act, I have had to reassure my American colleagues that we are not falling behind and that we will implement the Act. It is very important that we put ourselves where we should be-in the forefront of stamping out corruption not only in the developing world but in international trade generally.”

Coming soon

We have been and remain certain that the new law will enter into force.  Yesterday Mr.Clarke said:

“I am trying to get on with it. I believe it is possible to satisfy those who think we should give a lead in helping to stamp out corruption in international trade and other aspects of international relationships, and at the same time satisfy honest businesses that do not want unnecessary costs and burdens put upon them.”

As we said at the time it is not a question of if but when.  We do not expect any material changes.

All public pronouncements from the government confirm this view.  While there was reference to the new law being subject to a review with the suggestion that it might be shelved (something which we debunked when we likened the prospects of this as akin to the likelihood pigs might fly) all government references have been to finalisation of the guidance to clarify certain areas of the new law for business.  This is a good thing.  But it does not and will not in our view amount to a re-write of the law.

Corporate Hospitality

As we have repeatedly said the police will not be swooping at the corporate hospitality tents at Wimbledon and Ascot this year.  Mr. Clarke confirmed that in spite of scaremongering headlines suggesting that corporate hospitality golf days and the like will be criminalised under the Act this is simply not so.  He said: “ordinary hospitality cannot possibly be affected by the Act.” “Ordinary hospitality to meet and network with customers and to improve relationships is an ordinary part of business and should never be a criminal offence.”

Compliance costs

Controversially Mr. Clarke also went onto say something else we have been saying for months.  Much of the compliance with the Bribery Act is a matter of common sense.  In response to complaints about the cost of compliance Mr. Clarke had this to say:

“I hope to put out very clear guidance for businesses of all sizes to make that clear and to save them from the fears that are sometimes aroused by the compliance industry-the consultants and lawyers who will, of course, try to persuade companies that millions of pounds must be spent on new systems that, in my opinion, no honest firm will require to comply with the Act.”

The media reported yesterday that the Bribery Act is now back on track.

It was never off track.

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Feb 16, 2011 17:00

The thing that worries me is that they didn’t put a date on the implementation. Just a 90-days-after-guidance milestone. When a date slips, that’s one thing. When it slips to “undetermined” status, that’s different.

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